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SOCIAL    AND    POLITICAL    LIFE           179

their "fire" a little, or that they might unknowingly kill or
maim a man who belonged to that higher official's household.
Then they would cry, "I ought to die! I ought to die!" and
actually they might be handed over to the higher official for
whatever punishment that official deemed fit, including flogging
and imprisonment, law or no law.

Privilege of this sort was always inspiring and fascinating,
and it is no wonder that modern officials, deprived of such
outward glory, are unwilling to give it up. No one enjoying a
privilege is not flattered by it or highly pleased with it. What
a democratic come-down to call these modern officials "public
servants!" They may use the phrase themselves in circular
telegrams, but in their hearts they hate it. In 1934 there still
occurred a case in which the chauffeur of a high government
official disobeyed the traffic signal, crossed the road at a busy
corner, and pulling out a revolver, shot off the thumb of the
policeman who tried to stop him. Such was the glowing flame
of his official fire. Yes, privilege was a good thing, and it is
still glowing to-day.

Privilege is therefore the antithesis of equality and the
officials are the natural enemies of democracy. Whenever the
officials are willing to curtail their class privilege, enjoy less
freedom of action and answer an impeachment by appearing
at a law court, China can be transformed overnight into a
true democracy. But not until then. For if the people are free,
where will be the freedom of the officials and militarists? If
the people have the inviolability of person, where will be the
freedom of the militarists to arrest editors, close down the
press and chop off men's heads to cure their headache?1
Whenever the people are disrespectful to their officials or the
young speak against their parents, we exclaim "Fan liao! Fan
liao!" meaning that heaven and earth are overturned and the
world has come to an end.

The notion is very deep-rooted in the Chinese mind, and
the evil is not confined to the officials, but spreads like the
roots of a banyan tree miles off. Like the banyan tree, too, it
spreads its cool shade over all who come under it. We Chinese

1 As did General Chang Yi in my native town, Changchow, FnMen. I can
give Ms name because he is dead.